Here I share a complete explication of the poem Diving Into the Wreck by Adrienne Rich. It is a complex tale of a woman’s journey in a male dominated society and the roles a woman must play. This poem is rich with imagery and symbolism. Here you will find a complete Diving Into the Wreck summary to help you better understand this intriguing poem. As a college student, I had to write a detailed explication of this poem by Adrienne Rich and as an English teacher I explained it to my students. Below you will find an analysis of Diving Into the Wreck based off of my college studies and my lecture notes as a teacher. Image courtesy of AllPosters. Adrienne Rich was a degreed, award winning poet by the age of twenty-two. Two years later she married. By the time she was twenty-eight she had given birth to three sons.
Rich was unsatisfied just being a wife and mother. She felt conflicted between her duties to her family and her desire to write. This discord is evident in her poetry. Rich’s poem, Diving Into the Wreck explores the struggles of a woman in a patriarchal society. This poem tells the story of a woman’s voyage into the male dominated workforce. She dives into the wreck and comes out transformed. The first stanza of Diving Into the Wreck describes the heroine, or diver, preparing for her courageous journey. The book of myths represents knowledge of the male-dominated world. The book of myths contains the traditional views of gender roles. In continues to teach our nation that men have a place in the professional world, while a woman’s place is at home. The diver has read the book of myths so that she may combat the female stereotypes. Her camera will record her journey so that other women will benefit from what she learns and accomplishes. The knife is for her protection.
The body-armor is the business attire she must wear before the male-sominated business community will take her seriously. Wet suits, like her work clothes, are genderless so that she will blend in. The flippers are “absurd” because she must go to extremes in order to conform to the professional world. The mask is “grave” and “awkward” much like her journey into corporate America must be. The second stanza explains that the opportunity for women to climb the corporate ladder has always been there. Rich poses a very important challenge to all women, which can be read into the very important word change from “I” to “we” that occurs in this stanza. Rich is saying that the women are aware of the quest for equality that lays before them, but few choose to accept the challenge. The journey for a women into the tip top of corporate America is a difficult one, and it was even more so in the 1970s when this poem was written.
The idea is that women have a difficult battle when it comes to trying to break into the male-dominated corporate America and that women need to rise up together. When some women choose not to take the “ladder,” or the challenge, it hurts all women. Stanzas three and four of Driving Into the Wreck are describing the heroine’s journey down to the wreck. This journey, though it dives deeper into the ocean, represents the climb up the corporate ladder. The “flippers” or the attire required for our heroine to fit into corporate America, are now crippling her. As she adopts the masculine clothing, demeanor, and mindset she is losing herself. She finally dove so deeply into the male-dominated corporate world and submerged herself in their masculine, business culture that now, having taken this intense journey, she finds it difficult to remember her original purpose. The main reason she says “it is easy to forget” what she came for is because all of the women who took this treacherous journey before her are now deep in the corporate world and unrecognizable as women.
These women have had to fully assimilate into a man’s world in order to further their careers. They even had to learn to sway “their crenellated fans” in self defense against this now hostile territory. Ahh, now she remembers her purpose. She came to explore and investigate the business world. She wanted to see first hand the damage inflicted on all of womankind by assimilating into this culture and the rewards they could reap if they successfully penetrated the male-dominated corporate America. She shines her light on this world in hopes of revealing all of its hidden secrets. She is searching for the permanent rewards of breaking the glass ceiling. We’ve all heard stories about corporate America and the glass ceiling and discrimination faced by women who choose to have a serious career in business, but our heroine didn’t want to rely on the tales of others. She wanted to experience it for herself.